We would love to pretend that baking bread is easy, but alas, it is quite a technical process, especially when making it from scratch.
There are so many factors to consider: the ratio of ingredients, proper mixing techniques, resting times, temperatures, shaping methods, baking methods—the list goes on and on!
One big problem area we have noticed and been constantly asked about is at what temperature bread should be baked.
What temperature should I bake my bread at? There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to baking temperatures. A good rule of thumb is that bread with thick and crispy crusts (like sourdough and ciabatta) bake at higher temperatures, compared to thin and soft crusted bread (like banana bread and hamburger buns) which typically bake at lower temperatures.
In today’s jam-packed article, we will look at every factor to consider when choosing the best temperature to bake bread at.
Some of these factors include the type of bread you are making (high-fat dough, enriched dough, or high-sugar dough), the crust you want, the flavor, and most importantly, the texture.
What Happens When Bread Bakes?
It is very important to understand what takes place when the bread bakes and how temperature affects it. Naturally, the temperature will affect how quickly the loaf of bread bakes and it will also ensure that it bakes completely through.
However, one thing people don’t often consider when it comes to choosing the correct baking temperature for bread is how the temperature affects the texture, flavor, and even color of the baked loaf.
These are arguably more important than “getting the bread baked” as this is what makes bread unique from one another.
For example, a loaf of banana bread has a ton of sweet flavors, a very dark color, a thin crust (if any crust at all), and a soft exterior.
These characteristics are obtained by baking the banana bread at lower temperatures for a longer time to ensure it doesn’t form a thick and tough crust, while also allowing the many sugars inside the dough to caramelize.
Then, you get ciabatta, a loaf of very airy bread with a thick and tough crust, lightly golden brown color, and loads of nutty and toasty flavors.
These characteristics are obtained by baking the loaf of bread at higher temperatures. This helps the crust form quicker and thereby also thicker (because of the longer time it has to bake and more of the surface dries out).
These are only two examples, but hopefully, you get the idea of it. We will naturally still go in-depth to determine at exactly which temperature you should bake your specific bread.
There are 2 main reactions that take place when the bread bakes that will affect the texture, color, and flavor of the bread: the Maillard reaction and caramelization.
Both these reactions take place when sugar is heated and browned.
The Maillard Reaction
First, we will start with the lesser-known Maillard reaction, also called the carbonyl-amine reaction.
This chemical reaction occurs when heat is applied to products that contain sugars. The reducing sugars (inside of the bread dough in this case) bind with amino acids and help food brown.
It gives bread its beautiful golden brown to deep and dark color while simultaneously adding some unique toasty flavors.
The Maillard reaction takes place anywhere between 280-330°F.
So, in order to have any browning in your bread, the minimum temperature you should consider baking at is 280°F.
The Maillard reaction takes place at slightly lower temperatures compared to caramelization (which we will still discuss).
Both of these reactions will still take place at the same time, but it makes it all the more crucial why you should choose the perfect baking temperature for your loaves of bread.
This is a term you are probably more familiar with. As you may know, caramelization occurs when sugars heat. At high enough temperatures, these sugars start breaking down.
This is usually around 350°F—higher compared to the Maillard reaction.
When these sugars start breaking down, they produce a wide range of colors depending on how much you allow them to break down.
Basically, the longer you bake the bread, the darker it will become. Your loaves will also become darker when baked at higher temperatures.
And naturally, when browning occurs, a delicious toasty and nutty aroma develops alongside some delicious caramel-like flavors.
Sugar Content Inside Bread
But wait, bread doesn’t have any sugar in it? Or at the very least, doesn’t always contain a lot of it. So, how can sugar brown? Will bread without sugar still be able to brown?
The sugar content inside bread dough doesn’t necessarily have to come from actual sugar. For example, milk contains sugar. So do eggs, cream, and even flour!
While definitely in smaller amounts, it is still enough sugars to affect the final texture of the bread.
Sugar can also be added to the recipe to help control the yeast action (sugar helps feed yeast and allows it to leaven the dough).
And then, of course, you have some sweetbreads that have a ton of sugar to add sweeter flavors. These loaves of bread usually tend to be darker in color, have more caramel flavors, and also thinner or softer crusts.
Temperature Vs. Characteristic
The temperature that the bread is baked at determines the following characteristics of the final loaf:
- The thickness of the crust
- The texture of the crust (whether it is soft or tough)
- The color of the crust
- The aromas of the loaf of bread
- The flavor of the bread
So, let’s say you have two identical bread doughs. The one is baked at a lower temperature and the other is baked at a higher temperature – both for the same amount of time.
The dough that was baked at a lower temperature will have a much thinner crust compared to the higher-temperature-baked dough.
This is because the instant high heat starts forming the crust much quicker and gives the oven more time to essentially dry out the outer layer of the dough, creating a thick crust.
This goes hand-in-hand with the crust thickness. Usually, thicker crusts are much tougher compared to thin crusts. This again is because the oven had more time to dry out the crust and create a tough texture.
Tough isn’t unpleasant in any way and for some bread, it is actually essential to protect the fragile and airy internal crumb, like ciabatta for example. It can also help protect and insulate the flavor of the loaf, like with sourdough loaves.
The final color of the crust has more to do with the amount of time the loaf of bread bakes and the sugar content inside.
You can still completely ruin bread when baking it at 280°F if you forget it inside of the oven for long enough. Color develops in loaves as time progresses.
If you have a loaf with high-sugar content, you should preferably bake it at lower temperatures to avoid over-browning it. You don’t want the bread to be dark when it hasn’t been baked through yet.
Bread Aroma And Flavor
This naturally occurs when baking bread and you don’t really have a lot of control over it (other than the recipe of course). But, in terms of controlling the flavor using specific oven temperatures, it is very difficult.
What we can say, however, is that higher temperatures will produce toastier-flavored bread, whereas lower temperatures (especially when sugar-containing dough) will produce more caramel-flavored bread.
Tips For The Best Bread
From all of the above-mentioned information, it is pretty easy to determine exactly how to get the outcome that you are looking for. Before we get into specific baking temperatures for specific types of bread, let’s recap:
- To get a thick crust on a loaf, bake the bread at a higher temperature until it has been fully baked. Do not overbake it as it will start drying out the internal crumb – you don’t want that!
- To get a thin crust on a loaf, you can bake it at lower temperatures until the bread has been fully baked through.
- For tough crusts, you can also use slightly higher temperatures, but be careful not to overbake it – this will dry out the crust and create a crisper texture, not tough.
- For soft crusts, definitely use lower temperatures.
- To get beautifully browned bread, just make sure to monitor the color more than the temperature. Bread that is high in sugar generally bakes at lower temperatures to prevent them from over-browning and from having a thick, crispy, or tough crust.
- Higher temperatures will create toastier flavored bread, whereas lower temperatures will produce more caramel-like flavors.
Determining The Correct Baking Temperature For Bread
The ideal temperatures to bake bread at are between 350-475°F. This temperature zone allows both the Maillard reaction and caramelization to take place and give your loaf the best of both worlds!
Just keep in mind that it is always best to follow the given temperatures in the recipe. But, if something looks off about the recipe or you want to experiment with texture, then definitely use these guidelines!
High-Fat Bread (Rich Dough)
High-fat bread is any that contains fats like oil, butter, or shortening. These are not the same as an enriched dough (which we will still discuss).
Fat has many functions when it comes to making bread. The most important or significant is arguably that it helps slow down the formation of gluten.
What that basically means is that it doesn’t produce bread with very open crumbs.
High-fat bread usually bakes at lower temperatures to prevent the fat from over-browning and even burning. This bread should have an internal temperature of roughly 180-190°F when finished baking.
As we have mentioned, bread that is high in sugar is generally baked at lower temperatures to prevent the sugars from caramelizing too quickly and creating a very dark loaf of bread.
These sugars can include anything from granulated white or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and loads more.
The darker sugars (like brown sugar, muscovado sugar, and molasses) brown much quicker, so keep an eye on your loaves or lower the temperature during the last 5-10 minutes of baking.
If your recipe contains less than ½ cup of sugar (in any form) you can bake it at a higher temperature like 375°F.
However, if it contains more than half a cup, you should lower the temperature to roughly 350°F. This will ensure it bakes completely through without becoming dark too quickly.
These are bread that contains enriching ingredients like milk, cream, fat, or eggs. It is harder to give a general temperature guide for these as each reacts to temperature in a different way.
All of these ingredients do however contain sugars, so will have to be baked at lower temperatures.
A fantastic example is brioche bread, which contains eggs, milk, and butter. This bread will have to be baked at around 325-375°F for roughly 30-40 minutes.
Baking Temperature For Specific Bread
Below, we have assembled a handy list of more specific types of bread and the temperatures they should be baked at. We have also included a useful table that you can keep on hand and use as a reference.
Sourdough bread is known for its very chewy internal texture and crisp, crunchy crust. This balance is obtained through a very specific baking technique.
In an ideal world, you need very high temperatures to help develop the crispy crust, but a steamy oven to help soften the interior crumb.
Unfortunately, not all ovens have a steaming function or are big enough to makeshift that option. However, steam does help slow the development of the crust to allow the sourdough to rise a lot.
You can either add some hot water to the bottom of your oven, or bake the dough in a preheated pan, pot, or skillet.
There are two main temperatures (or methods) you can use to bake sourdough (with or without the use of steam).
The first is to preheat your oven at a very high temperature, about 465°F. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 430°F and baking it for another 15 minutes or so.
This method allows great oven spring (the dough to get that initial rise) through the hot temperatures while lowering the temperature helps prevent it from over-browning. You will still have a nice thick and dark crust.
In the second method, you can simply bake the loaf at 430°F for 40-45 minutes. This will create a much thinner crust that also has lighter color. Both methods will still produce a crispy crust, just with different thicknesses.
Ciabatta dough is also similar to sourdough in that it has a very chewy internal texture, but also chewy crust. This is obtained by using high temperatures and misting the loaf with water when it bakes.
Ciabatta can be baked at about 425°F for roughly 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.
This will help the crust instantly form, but you don’t bake it for long enough that it dried out (becoming crispy) or gets too thick.
Dinner rolls should be baked at lower temperatures for many reasons. First, they are much smaller compared to a large loaf of bread. They will naturally take less time to bake, so higher temperatures will dry them out quickly.
Lower temperatures also ensure that they remain soft and get a thin and soft crust with still a golden brown color. A lot of dinner roll recipes are either high-fat bread or enriched bread.
We would recommend baking these dinner rolls at roughly 350°F for about 20 minutes. Remember, they are small, so make sure they don’t overbake and dry out or become too dark.
Hamburger Buns Or Hotdog Rolls
The recipes for hamburger buns and hotdog rolls are very similar to those used for dinner rolls. They do however tend to contain more moisture and are usually even softer. These are also often high-fat dough or enriched dough.
You would also bake hamburger buns or hotdog rolls at roughly 375°F, but for about 30-40 minutes.
The higher temperature (in comparison to dinner rolls) is because you are making larger bread that needs more heat to rise properly.
Wheat rye bread has many variations, mainly n the proportion of flour and rye grains used.
This will determine the color of the bread, which can vary from light to dark. This bread usually is very dense, so using the correct temperature is essential.
Most bakers prefer baking wheat-rye bread at between 400-425°F. The loaves will also take much longer to completely bake because of their density.
The best way to determine when the loaf is finished (because they vary in size so often), is to tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow, it is usually done. However, these loaves can take at the very least an hour to bake.
While many argue pizza isn’t a type of bread, in our opinion, it technically is. Pizza dough consists of virtually the same ingredients normal bread dough does and is merely shaped in a different way and baked with added toppings.
Now, pizza dough, regardless of the baking method you are using, should be baked at higher temperatures.
This is to ensure that the sides seal, you have an extremely crispy crust, the dough cooks evenly and quickly, and that the toppings don’t overcook.
Pizza dough can be baked in an oven, on a pizza stone, in a skillet or Dutch oven, or in a pizza oven. Regardless, you will have to use temperatures between 450-500°F.
The time the dough bakes is mainly determined by the thickness and overall diameter (size) or the base. The larger the base, obviously, the longer it would take.
We would say, thin bases can be done in about 10 minutes, whereas thicker bases can take up to 25 minutes.
Banana bread is a high-sugar bread. If you can remember from that section, any bread that contains more than half a cup of sugar should be baked at a lower temperature, roughly 350°F.
This will ensure that you develop nice caramel-like flavors, the bread doesn’t become too dark, and that it has a nice thin and soft crust.
Brioche is a very enriched type of bread that contains milk (or cream), fat (usually butter), and eggs. It also sometimes contains sugar. All of these ingredients make the dough very susceptible to over-baking and over-browning.
The sugar content of all of these ingredients when added up together, makes it important to bake the dough at lower temperatures. We recommend 325-375°F for roughly 30-40 minutes.
Potato bread in general is a very dense loaf of bread that is still fluffy and very soft. It is, obviously, made using mashed potatoes to give it a unique flavor.
This bread should definitely be baked at lower temperatures to ensure it doesn’t become too dark (because of all the sugars in the potato) or that it forms a thick and chewy crust.
We recommend baking it at 350°F for 40-50 minutes. This time does vary depending on the size of your loaf, but the density means it needs more time to bake in general.
|Type Of Bread||Baking Temperature||Crust Characteristics|
|Sourdough||465°F for 20 minutes, then 430°F for 15 minutes||Thick crust
Crispy crust texture
Great oven-spring (rise)
|Ciabatta||425°F for 25-35 minutes||Tough chewy crust
Thin-medium thickness crust
|Dinner Rolls||350°F for 20 minutes||Golden brown color
|Hamburger Buns||375°F for 30-40 minutes||Golden brown color
|Hotdog Rolls||375°F for 30-40 minutes||Golden brown color
|Wheat Rye||400-425°F for 60 minutes||Chewy crust
Usually very dark in color
|Pizza dough||450-500°F for 10-25 minutes||Crispy crust
A dark color (sometimes charred)
|Banana bread||350°F for 20-30 minutes||Nice dark color
|Brioche||325-375°F for 30-40 minutes||Soft, chewy crust
Golden brown color
|Potato bread||350°F for 40-50 minutes||Soft and thin-crust
Golden brown color
Common Mistakes People Make When Baking Bread
Seeing as we are talking about baking temperatures today, it is coincidentally the biggest mistake people make when baking bread.
There is no point in spending hours making the perfect sourdough dough just to end up ruining it by using incorrect baking temperatures, giving it a soft crust and pale color!
It is important to understand what characteristics your bread needs to have so that you can decide what the best temperature will be to achieve that.
Under-baking and over-baking is also something that commonly occurs and has to do with temperature. Make sure you understand what temperature you are baking at and how it affects the speed at which the loaf bakes.
Lower temperatures will naturally cause the loaf to bake longer compared to higher temperatures.
But, higher temperatures could give the loaf the appearance of being fully baked when in fact, it is not. You have to find the perfect balance between fully baking bread and the color it has to have.
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